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Sustainable tourism: From theory to practice

Sustainable tourism is one of the most used terms in tourist industry. Because the term is used so much, it is also used where it shouldn’t be. That is why this article will talk about what is sustainable tourism. 

Sustainable tourism is connected with term sustainable development so let’s take a look what this term even means. In the earliest of definitions, sustainable development is a development, which is sufficient to today’s needs and doesn’t jeopardise the next generations to live the same or better life as us. We know three pillars of sustainable development: economical development, social development and nature protection. The climate pillar is also worth mentioning as the fourth pillar. Sustainable development aims to make a balance between those pillars and tries to search for a balance in nature and in society. It is important to find the economic development, which will contribute to the welfare of all people and not worsen the state of natural environment.
Sustainable tourism can be maintained for unlimited time without worsening the conditions. It helps to maintain the diversity of plants and animals, it respects cultural heritage of the society and also promotes economic success and fair distribution of social benefits. 
These definitions make it obvious that mass tourism can’t really be sustainable tourism. That is true in most cases as it usually breaks the rules of one of the pillars in sustainable development.  For example, it produces too much waste and causes dissatisfaction in local community because the money from tourism doesn’t always stay in the same town or goes to the foreign bank accounts. Most of the time the sustainable tourism can be seen in alternative shapes of tourism, for example eco tourism, volunteer tourism, adventure tourism, which started to develop because of the crisis of mass tourism. Eco tourism actively contributes to preservation of cultural and natural heritage and to inclusion of local community in the tourism. One of the basic activities of sustainable tourism is travelling to preserved area with the purpose to understand the culture and nature. Eco tourism is therefore vacation on tourist farms or seeing animals in their natural habitat. 
The second option of alternative tourism is backpacking tourism, where a person backpacks for a longer period of time with a Lonely Planet guide in his backpack. A backpacker often travels alone or in small groups. Travellers spend more time on one area where they help to develop the local community. This kind of tourism is really expanding. The reasons for it are low prices for plane tickets, bigger media recognition, which encourage the wish to travel and a possibility of better communication with the world. Tourists who backpack sleep in hostels and that is why they need a good hostelling web. Here is HI hostels’ turn. They offer cheap and qualitative accommodation on various ends of the world.  
One of the forms of alternative tourism is group tourism where tourists live at locals’ houses. The development of this form of tourism is managed by local community. The community can be anywhere – in big cities or in Andes. But first you need to take care for the minimal conditions of accommodations, before it is offered to tourists. The whole community can decide for this type of tourism or just a few families.  It is important that the benefits of the community are put in front of the tourism investments. 
Volunteer tourism as the form of sustainable tourism combines volunteer work and tourism.  It consists of tourists who are included in volunteer activities in organized way and help to reduce poverty or are helping to protect the environment. For some tourists the location is very important or some tourists choose their place based on the content of the volunteer programme. There are a lot of volunteer programme, the most known in Europe are EVS programmes. You have to be careful, which type of person you’re sending to a location. It can happen that you send a teacher without suitable education to teach children. But volunteering is still a good thing, usually it is done by enthusiastic people who re completely devoted to their job. This way it comes to the exchange of knowledge and learning.  An experience like that touches the volunteer forever and gives him a new look on the world. 
This year has been proclaimed by United Nations as the year of sustainable tourism for development. HI hostels decided to support: sustainable economic growth, decrease of unemployment and poverty, environment protection, fight against climate changes, and promote the diversity of world cultures, mutual understanding and world peace. Because Hostelling International is a web of hostels in the first place, they created rules for sustainable hostels, which touch every pillar of sustainable development. The rules talk about caring for their employees and volunteers, managing water and waste and planning the development of a hostel in the future. They also organized events throughout the year. You can ask about sustainable events in each hostel, you can get in touch with local community and connect with travellers from different cultures. 
Sustainable tourism promotes important principles. People want to see the country in a way, which is kind to society and to nature. They sleep at locals’ homes, walk around national park.  But it’s hard to explain to the crowds of tourists on a beach that sustainable tourism is happening here and that they can’t sleep in foreign hotels anymore. I’m still talking about vacation, which is a break for some people and not the time when they have to watch how they behave. But changes are happening. Even if we travel in popular tourist places we see signs, which invite people to be responsible. Even if it’s only a sign to throw garbage in the bin. We still have a lot more work to do to bring sustainable tourism and sustainable development into our lives.  

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